Why I’m addicted to FPV
A few years ago, if you were to type ‘fpv’ in Google, you’d be lucky to get an actual hit. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, go ahead and open a new tab in Chrome (or whatever browser you’re using) and type fpv in your search box. It’s okay, I’ll wait…
The acronym FPV (First Person View) is now widely associated with drone racing and remote/radio controlled aircraft (usually quadcopters or drones), where the operator/pilot has a pair of goggles and controls the aircraft as if he/she is actually in the cockpit (hence first person).
While the hype surrounding consumer drones these past five years have centered around lumbering/floating camera carriers or toys at Christmas flown once and discarded (or lost), there has been a quiet groundswell of activity in first person view flight… and when I say flight, I mean flight.
The FPV Addiction
I am flying — Yes, flying. There is no sensation like it. I soar through the air, climbing and diving trees, barrel rolling, split-s, power loops, float forever… I am the one behind the driver seat, controlling this craft, I see what it sees through its low grade, standard definition camera (yes, well aware of the DJI Digital FPV System… $$$). But that doesn’t matter, the brain is a miraculous organ.
At first, when your brain is trying to make sense of this 2D image through your goggle, and you’re struggling with the controls (no, this is not like the DJI Mavic you have where most of your controls are stabilized), you feel awkward and unstable, unable to make sense of your two dimensional surrounding. After about 10 hours of ‘stick’ time, your brain starts to understand that the tree you were about to hit was actually much farther away… you’re hooked.
Ya Got Me… What Next?
The biggest barrier to entry for FPV is skill. I’m not talking about flying skill, that comes with a little stick time. I’m talking about getting your craft up and flying skill. I’m talking about building skill. You see, as far as we’ve come in drone freestyle/racing, there’s still no real way of getting around the DIY aspect of this hobby. Why? For one simple reason… you will crash, and sooner or later, you will need to fix that beautiful quadcopter of yours, the one you paid $300–$600 for. Freestyle flying and drone racing wasn’t something ‘developed’ by a massive corporation, or the ‘invention’ of a some cool tech startup.
This sport was created by RC hobbyists and do-it-yourself-ers over many years of tinkering and experimentation. While you can absolutely purchase a ready-to-fly FPV drone, the second you crash and break something (which is often), you’ll need to break out the soldering iron, screw driver, shrink-wrap, multi-meter, 3-D printer, etc… There just isn’t a way of getting around this part. Even the firmware that runs your quadcopter (drone) is DIY and open-sourced on GitHub. Don’t get me wrong, over the years, companies have grown around this sport, with specialized hardware as well as software to make flying a better experience, but there simply is not one major and/or dominant player in the arena.
All of this is to say that the barrier to entry is not cost, it is the time and experience you will incur learning. But for the chance to fly…
Here are some resources to get you started:
Quadcopter FPV Multicopter RC Hobby DIY Electronics Robotics Projects
Useful Resource about Quadcopter, FPV Multicopter, Mini Quad, FPV, place for RC hobbyists, robot builders, website…
disclaimer: I do not work for, nor am affiliated with any of the aforementioned sites.